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Doubling down on data for racial equity 

Huilan Krenn, Dr. Watkins, Joyce Ybarra, Ann Mei Chang, and Cat Clerkin on screen during the Collective power webinar.

In February 2023, Candid launched Demographics via Candid, a campaign to empower nonprofits to share their demographic data one time, on their Candid nonprofit profiles, where it can be accessed and reused by all. In providing free access to this data, we’re addressing the surge in demand among funders for data to inform equitable grantmaking, reducing the reporting burden on nonprofits, and streamlining the grantmaking process.  

On March 12, Candid hosted Collective power: Using data in your equity journey, a panel discussion about how partners are engaging with the initiative, as well as insights from Candid’s demographic data collection over the last five years. Candid CEO Ann Mei Chang was joined by Dr. Akilah Watkins, president and CEO of Independent Sector; Cat Clerkin, associate vice president of research and insights at Candid; Huilan Krenn, director of learning and impact at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; and Joyce Ybarra, interim vice president of programs at the Weingart Foundation. 

Grantmakers: Remaining focused on driving equity 

In her keynote speech, Dr. Akilah Watkins addressed “the equity climate in the United States” following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2023 ruling against affirmative action in college admissions. In an effort to preempt a “chilling effect” on equity work in the sector, IS and the Council on Foundations filed a joint amicus brief last December in a related case.  

“Nonprofits…need grantmakers to double down on philanthropic commitments to racial justice and to provide the resources that enable their grantees to advocate for and measure policies that advance equity,” she said. “Now, data can provide critical information about equity or the lack thereof….statistics are one way to assess the cumulative impact of overlapping systems of bias.” 

“Good and timely data that models data collection best practices is a critical tool for advancing the large causes of equity,” she added. 

Watch the video clip of Dr. Watkins.

Insights from the data set: Intersectional leadership and resource gaps 

The panel discussion opened with Candid’s Cat Clerkin noting that, since Candid began encouraging nonprofits to share their demographic data in 2019, over 66,000 organizations have provided information about a million individuals. About 40,000 nonprofits last updated their data in the past year.  

Clerkin shared five insights from that data set, including that there is (still) a racial leadership gap in the social sector; white CEOs are overrepresented in nearly every state; and women of color CEOs are overrepresented among the smallest nonprofits by revenue size and underrepresented among the largest. “The takeaway here is that racial equity is intersectional and that even though we are seeing more diversity among smaller organizations, a lot of the power and resources of the sector are still disproportionately staying in the hands of white men,” she said. 

In addition, organizations with a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) CEO and a majority BIPOC board have 35% smaller median revenue than majority white-led nonprofits; and 82% of organizations with white CEOs received at least one grant between 2019 and 2023, compared with only 60% of those with Black CEOs.  

Watch the video clip of Cat Clerkin.

Reducing burden through collaborative efforts 

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Huilan Krenn spoke about how the Equity Data Workgroup—which she formed with fellow evaluation leaders—came to partner with Demographics via Candid over three shared goals: to transform the sector as a whole and ease the burden on nonprofits, to advance racial equity, and to promote equitable funding practices.  

Asked about the benefits of aligning the sector on demographic data collection, Krenn highlighted the importance of having a data standard with common definitions—for example, of a “POC-led and -serving organization.” “Clarifying what demographic data to collect, how to collect the data, who is the data source [is] an equity play, because data power…comes from who collects the data, how the data system [is operated], by whom. So that whole thing is part of the power building. For me, another significant…benefit of aligning on demographics data collection is the increase in the likelihood of having consistent, systematic, and quality data from and about our current and…future grantee partners.” 

Watch the video clip of Huilan Krenn.

Embracing individual and collective accountability

Joyce Ybarra, interim vice president of programs at the Weingart Foundation, described how the foundation has been collaborating to collect demographic data in a systematic, uniform way with the California Endowment and the James Irvine Foundation.  

“We saw the opportunity to align our approach to demographic data collection as a way not only to reduce the burden on our partners but also hold ourselves accountable to our individual and collective goals around equity,” she said. When the three foundations explicitly requested that grantees submit demographic data through Candid, the share of grantees doing so jumped from roughly 50% to 80%.  

Asked what advice she would give to funders who are just starting to collect demographic data from grantees, Ybarra suggested: first, not reinventing the wheel and instead using existing taxonomies and tools; and second, building internal buy-in within the context of a trust-based approach. “Once we talked about the why of the data, [how] it’s important for our own learning and action, and that helped to build support,” she said. “The question we posed is: How do we know what our impact is if we don’t even know who we’re impacting?” 

Watch the video clip of Joyce Ybarra.

The event included further discussion of the future of nonprofit data collection for equity and concluded with a Q&A session. Watch the full webinar to learn more.

Join us on May 29 for a discussion about this research featuring Kelly Brown, founder and CEO of Viewpoint Consulting, and Cesar Del Valle, director of partnerships at Candid. Together, they’ll explore the details of the findings, offering invaluable insights for the sector as a whole. Register for the webinar “The nonprofit experience: Insights on demographic data collection.” 


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